You’ve just welcomed a new client to your marketing agency. *high fives all around* 🙌
But before you start pouring the champagne, it’s time to onboard your new client to set them up for success and start your client relationship with a strong, lasting first impression.
Managing client expectations is essential to client retention, and it begins on day one. Without the right processes, you will inadvertently throw a wrench in your agency’s growth goals.
If you don’t already have a client onboarding checklist–or want to see whether you’re making the most of this critical phase of the agency-client relationship, you’ve come to the right place.
This article will equip you with a six-step onboarding client checklist that will help you onboard new clients smoothly and reduce churn.
The Benefits of a Client Onboarding Checklist
Client onboarding–or customer onboarding–is the process by which you bring in a new client to your business.
When you’re welcoming a new client to your agency, you need a detailed workflow to ensure everything runs smoothly. You should also have all the information you need to reach your clients’ business goals or risk shooting blindly for success during this onboarding process.
A client onboarding checklist will also prevent you from overlooking important details and making mistakes that cost your agency both time and money.
Not only does it formalize your agreement, but it is where you gather enough intel from your clients to:
Ensure you understand your client’s expectations.
Reduce the risk of miscommunication to prevent future disagreements.
Prove your agency’s professionalism by paying attention to detail.
Apart from this, having a clear system in place will allow anyone on your growing team to be on the same page when building client relationships.
After all, consistency is essential for scalability.
Let’s get cracking!
How To Implement a Client Onboarding Process
This six-step client onboarding checklist will cover key touchpoints to help streamline your client onboarding experience and reduce churn. It covers:
Contract and payment
Internal Kickoff Meeting
Set Up Client Reporting
Client Launch Meeting
And while no two agencies are the same, this will help you establish a strong working relationship from day one, leaving you room to personalize it and make it your client onboarding SOP.
1. Secure a Signed Contract & Set Payment Methods
While a clear “yes” or handshake feels great, it’s not official until you’ve done your due diligence and put it into writing.
And clear agreements lead to long-lasting relationships.
That’s why the first client onboarding step is to provide your new client with a contract should always be the first step in the onboarding process.
There’s more than one way to share a contract–and it doesn’t have to be done in person to make it official. Send and sign contracts via email or even online platforms such as DocuSign or HelloSign.
If they’re excited to work with your agency, it won’t take long for them to review the contract, ask questions, and return the signed copy.
At that point, there’s only one thing left to do: wait for the client to remit the payment. Be clear about which financial services you'd like to use to receive payment, be it via bank transfer, check, credit card, or wiring it online through PayPal.
Agency Tip: While it’s optional to request a payment up-front, requesting a deposit at the beginning of your contract is good practice. Neglecting to do so puts you at risk of non-payment, which is never a fun interaction.
Remember, a contract is about setting up clear expectations and building solid relationships that keep both parties happy.
2. Internal Kickoff Meeting
Now that you’re past the first two major hurdles, it’s time to assign a team and prepare for the project.
This is where you will:
Explore the scope of the project.
Assign roles and responsibilities.
Ask and answer key questions.
Share the clients’ key information such as website URL, social handles, key contacts at their company, access to relevant logins, and marketing collateral.
Determine the next steps.
Similar to the onboarding checklist, your internal kickoff meeting should remain consistent from client to client. Next, your team should discuss how they will assess their progress and reach their goals.
But before determining your KPIs and metrics and how to reach them, you’ll need more information.
3. Send Your Onboarding Questionnaire
Send a detailed yet concise welcome email that provides the client with the information necessary for your agency to move forward with the project.
That’s where the client onboarding questionnaire comes in. It is designed to gain a better understanding of the client’s requirements and meet their expectations.
Here are a few tips to make the most of your onboarding process questionnaire:
Don’t include too many questions–15 to 20 should suffice.
Consider the best way you will distribute the questionnaire–be it Google Sheets or a software application.
Propose a deadline–i.e. “We’d love to receive the questionnaire back within 10 business days.”
Offer your help with any questions or concerns and provide the right contact information for this.
A well-thought-out questionnaire will result in useful information both for the onboarding process and for future use.
4. Set Up Your Client Reporting
Once you know what campaigns you will be running, it’s best to get cracking and start tracking! Not only will this help you benchmark against your goals, but it will also help you benchmark against your progress. And that looks good.
Client reporting is traditionally a pain. But it’s a joy and a wealth of knowledge once you’ve automated it. And it saves you dozens–even hundreds–of hours each month depending on your number of clients.
That’s why your marketing agency needs to follow reporting best practices, comprehensive and automated reporting system to keep your clients in the loop and follow your progress in real-time without logging in and out of multiple platforms.
For example, SEO alone involves several key metrics that you need to optimize campaigns:
Top ranking pages
Agencies offering more services will naturally have dozens more on their list.
Instead of manually checking Semrush, Hubspot, Google Analytics, Facebook, and everything in between, your client reporting platform should integrate with each of your clients’ unique marketing channels and put them all under one umbrella.
That way, your data is visualized in dashboards and client-ready reports–while you focus on the marketing creative.
Drag and drop your clients’ KPIs using AgencyAnalytics’ Automated Reporting Platform. Try it free for 14 days!
To ensure consistency in your reporting, you'll also need to know how much and how often your clients would like to look at their results.
Will you send periodic reports or a live dashboard?
What is the reporting frequency?
Who is in charge of adding a reporting summary and personalized commentary to each report?
Once you’ve set up your initial report or dashboard templates, set your preferences with automated reporting software so you don’t have to think twice about your deadlines again.
5. Initial Project Setup
Good project management is essential for managing client accounts. And it all begins at the set-up stage. This is why choosing and using the right project management software is so important.
If you’re looking to update your tech stack and looking at project management software, this list from Capterra includes platforms that are currently dominating the project management sector.
Once you have your project management software, you:
Add the new client,
Invite team members to the project,
Upload all applicable information, such as contact details, contracts, and the scope of work, and
Set milestones in order to keep your team engaged and pushing forward.
And your client reporting software goes hand in hand with your project management software to ensure a flawless execution every step of the way. Use your client reporting software for handy client management tools that help you assign tasks and stay on top of the campaign analytics front.
Of course, it’s important that the current information in your project management tool is kept up-to-date to ensure that your team is on the same page with any new changes. Project management software does a lot of the heavy lifting behind the scenes, so don’t brush past this step. Organization is key to your agency’s ongoing success.
6. Client Launch Meeting
Once you’re ready and all teams and systems are in place, it’s time to host a kickoff meeting with the client.
This is the last piece of the first-impression puzzle. So don’t dive into your first meeting until:
The client should see a team of experts who have a clear plan of action, and who have the tools to get there. With those details squared away, it’s time to schedule your first meeting.
Here’s how it will go down:
Introduce everyone on your team.
Ask for a brief intro from everyone on the client’s side.
Quickly review the onboarding questionnaire, especially if you (or the client) have questions or concerns.
Clearly lay out the next steps.
The primary goal of the first client onboarding meeting is to get everyone on the same page. Without this, your team could take off in one direction while your client is expecting you to head down another path. And you definitely don’t want that.
After your first meeting, reconvene with your team to tie up any loose ends.
Some of the primary points of discussion will revolve around:
Questions you need to answer for the client.
Concerns or potential sticky points.
Anything that doesn’t align with the agreed-upon scope of work–Hint: this is often when you first recognize scope creep.
Information to add to your project management system, such as new contacts
Next steps (it’s time to actually get to work on the project).
Agency Tip: Your client is participating in the meeting, but you’re running it. Take charge, steer it in the right direction, and keep all parties on track and within the predetermined schedule.
Of course, a friendly follow-up email after the first meeting summarizing the key points and asking to keep your communication channels open can’t hurt.
Now you can start clinking your glasses.
Every client lifecycle includes onboarding new clients, follow-up, and service. And often, that first client onboarding process experience sets the stage for the rest of your working relationship.
According to Harvard Business Review, over 80% of executives said that improving client onboarding “offers a significant or moderate positive impact over the life of the contract for revenue, client renewals, and client referrals.”
Significant or moderate positive? We’ll take it!
With the help of a client onboarding checklist, a reliable reporting automation tool, and project management tools, your agency has everything it needs to support its staff and clients to build the foundations for a successful client relationship.
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